A downloadable game for Windows

With hours left before the confirmation of a new temporal cycle, a band of ambitious sellswords descends into the depths to bring the march of time to a final stop. 

Time is running out, all over again...

Cataphract OI is an experimental turn-based RPG escort mission made in RPG Maker 2000. Key features include:

- Move as a unitLead your party from room to room with menu-based movement and protect your squad out of combat by avoiding wandering monsters and holding defensive positions.

Race against the clock. Time is your most precious resource as every action in or out of combat advances the mission clock. Learn the landscape, choose your actions carefully, and halt the wheel of time before it runs you over.

- Step into the Fray. The vortex of battle is safe at the margins, but anything can happen at its lethal center. Protect your party by keeping them out of the Fray while driving your enemies into its deadly clutches. 

- Protect your charge.  The operation turns on the Supplicant's survival. Everyone has a role to play in keeping her alive: control the Fray with the Captain, cling to your charge's side with the Satellite, and tear down tough foes early with the Wolf.

One dungeon, medium-hard difficulty, light story. Estimated playtime: 2-3 hours.

Stuck keys in-game? Cherry's keyboard reset tool may help.

Rated 4.7 out of 5 stars
(18 total ratings)
GenreRole Playing
TagsExperimental, RPG Maker, Turn-based, Turn-Based Combat


Cataphract OI 1.0.1 (ZIP) 11 MB

Install instructions

Extract the game files from the .zip archive using your favorite extraction software, then run "RPG_RT.exe" to play.

Development log


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"WHEEL reads 11:02. Now and forever now." 

Fantastic game, I've already raved to you so much in DMs and will continue to do so, but this is so much to me. It's an experiment with RPG mechanics the likes of which we rarely see, it's a show that the RTP is just as valuable as custom assets, and it's a lovely bit of "mechanic is the message." Excellent work. I'm definitely gonna try to beat my time later.

“WHEEL reads 9:54. Now and forever now.”

Excellent game with really interesting design.

thanks a bunch for playing kastel! and congrats on the excellent finishing time

really interesting game...halfway done I think. One major critique is you cant tell if an enemy is in the fray or not during command input. it would be convenient to know that.

ty mariken! if i could change one thing about rpgmaker 2000 it'd be the way it communicates about status ailments, which at present is "barely at all, and there's nothing you can do about it".. for now you just have to imagine that keeping meticulous track of each enemy's position is part of the warrior's trade

"The wheel is at 10:51, now and forever now."

I had a blast once I settled into this one and started to understand the mechanics. I ended up making a simple map and plotting things out like a mini-heist, very satisfying. Good job on the story and characterization - the little nonverbal exchanges between the group, and the world are delightful, and I hope you will keep that aspect up if you make another OI for us!

As mentioned elsewhere, the battles occasionally killed Guruntum beyond my control, but with the frequent saves, not such a problem, and the battles never felt boring. Certain stacks of enemy were trivialized by Bade's new orthotics and Zaar's huge hammer, but anything with reapers stayed quite exciting.

I wasn't sure how I was meant to deal with the enemies near the end that walked into the room at the same time as me (so no ROOOAR). If I lost, I reloaded, stepped to that area again, held my position (ROOOAR) and held it one more time for initiative. I didn't like to rely on previous knowledge like that, but I guess with eternal recurrence...

I also fumbled around with the final encounter (took me some playing around to understand how to engage Concourse) and thought maybe I had to "double stop" the wheel (oops!), but I figured it out before coming to the comments.

Three things I didn't quite figure out:

How "death sensitivity" works - I don't think I saw anything happen with this.

What exactly the candle does - I used it, but not sure it altered anything?

What is OI, exactly? After three wonderful experiences, you'd think I would understand, but maybe I ate too much paste as a child.

Thank you for crafting (and recommending) such engaging experiences. I feel inspired to try and make some of my own now...

thanks for another great and generous comment - it's very rewarding to hear about your experiences with the OI games and especially with this one

re death sensitivity: guruntum takes a little look around before the action menu comes up if she expects an enemy to arrive in that room next turn. it plays a sound effect too, although it should be very quiet

re: the candle, it inhibits enemy healing - which in practice only applies to concourse

re: "OI", well, i think it started empty of particular meaning and it soaks up more over time. actually, from what you've shared with me, i'd say you understand pretty well

if you wind up doing some rpg making, i'd love to see the results, and if you use rm2k for it, you can call on me for help anytime

I might take you up on that! I've gotten rm2k running on my machine and taken a look under the hood at some of your work (nice feature).

I was sad to see that there isn't any DM capability on itch... and I don't really use social media - but I do have an account at https://opengameart.org which does have a DM system (I'm "null-painter-error" there) and it's generally a nice place (like itch) with a lot of free resources of all kinds which may or may not interest you (I do like the charm of rm2k default assets).

So, we could exchange emails safely via that site instead of in public? Or if there is some other strategy for contacting each other you prefer, let me know. Feel free to delete this post after, too.

sweet, i sent you a message there!

Hi! I've been having a great time with the game, and I love the time and fray systems. I find it pretty interesting that while they don't actually interact directly (you could even port each one individually to another game!), the fray system forces you to take more time to get through fights, making the cost of a battle more expensive. 

Below this point are spoilers for the finale, so watch out.

I've reached the final boss and kind of... have no idea what to do. I've tried to use Engage to get either Concourse or WHEEL into the Fray, but both of them seem completely immune to anything I do. Finality Pact seems to be the thing to do, but it just gets reversed by Concourse a few turns later, so I'm kind of lost. I feel like I'm missing something obvious, maybe a way to prevent Concourse from building FV, but I have no idea what it would be.

hey! sorry for the delayed response. the final battle is a common point of confusion, i should probably write a boss guide just to be safe. there are a few pieces to the puzzle, but it sounds like the one you're missing is that you need to use Strike Formation to draw Concourse into the fray. it might take some persistence, but you can finish her off while she's building FV to set WHEEL back in motion. also, this might not be necessary to mention, but there's an optional item hidden behind a gold door that can make the fight a little easier, too

thanks a lot for playing & for sharing such kind words,  and good luck with the last stretch! i'm here if you have any other questions (i'll make sure to respond promptly)

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Very cool experimental RPG!! I've been on the lookout for a while for RPG "reading material" that cuts out level progression and this provided some very interesting food for thought. I particularly appreciated the consistency in results for allowing me to strategize more precisely (e.g. I knew an attack from Zaar would always one-shot a Skoul, but Bade and Warji would need to each deal one hit), and also how it made the permanent buff/ability items I found into a serious *decision*. The Fray feels like a particularly unique take on frontline/backline battle mechanics and I like the way it encourages you to consider risks, especially to the Supplicant. The time mechanic added a neat element of pressure to the proceedings, while the game was still brief enough that I was comfortable starting over to go for a smoother run-through when I got to the final area the first time and had less than an hour remaining.

From a designer perspective, I *do* kinda feel like there could have been some extra clarity for how to locate and plan for running into encounters, and some more options might have been nice besides, since encounters are generally Just a Punishment. That said, while encounters cost you time and health without any sort of return, the time pressure would prevent a player from excessively grinding anything useful off the enemy encounters, anyway, so like... maybe some little reward would be nice?? But again, I liked the lack of levels, I'm just stuck on this for some reason. That said, I do like that bit of depth in learning how you can avoid encounters and how awareness of the space factors into preparing ahead for an encounter that you can't avoid. 

I otherwise think the random chance in enemy behaviors can, rarely, make things a bit of a wash when it comes to planning - excepting possibly Concourse(?) it didn't really feel like keeping characters in the fray impacted enemy behavior - it seemed to be generally just a Bad Thing to be in the fray, with the only reason *not* to pull out being turn economy. I generally didn't mind this at all, but there were a rare few times where Guruntum would just get *instantly* pulled into the fray and killed and I didn't really have any way to prevent it - even when I randomly chose to defend one of those times, she still got killed from max health because of how high the damage to her was. A bit of that randomness provides texture, of course, and frequent saves combined with short game make it not too big of a deal, but it still feels a bit odd for a game which is so tightly designed in other ways. 

Anyway!! I don't want to come off overly critical because overall I think this is a *really* neat mini-RPG and I'm glad I played it. Other things I like include the way the time mechanic is woven into the final monologue and final battle, the way the characters move around the field and each have a little bit of their role and personality infused into each of the scenes, and the really tight pacing. Excellent work, I look forward to seeing more and will definitely share this one with some RPG-head friends of mine.


hey, thanks for playing and especially for leaving such a thoughtful comment! it makes me feel really spoiled, of course i loved thinking about this stuff and trying to put it all into the game, so having so many of my specific choices acknowledged feels really validating (especially the fray stuff, which felt the most self-indulgent at the time), very pleased to hear so many things made enough of an impression to prompt comment from you

your thought about encounter rewards was really interesting, i hadn't thought about it but there's definitely room for it. i didn't omit them for fear of players grinding or amassing power, it was just my belief at the time that the point of battle was the threat of death (imminent or by attrition), that the motivation for fighting is the possibility of it being the safest way past an obstacle, and that survival itself is the reward.. having material rewards for combat seemed to create conflicting incentives and undermine the message that violence isn't a game to win but a problem to solve. of course, weighing conflicting incentives makes for interesting decision-making - but by default i think most players' expectations in an rpg are that you're supposed to fight every battle, rather than pick your fights, so my hope was that by denying any material gain, i make it a little easier for folks to stop ask and ask "is this worth it? can i avoid this somehow?" guruntum's fragility fits into that picture, too. on top of everything else, i find people whose job it is to do violence with swords interesting, and i think part of that job is accepting the possibility that you can do everything right and still fail, or die.. the nature of battle is that it's sort of brutal and unrewarding, but the business of navigating it is a whole language with lots of interesting layers and expressive potential, and these two facts have to coexist with each other somehow

all that said, i still would've liked players to feel a little more empowered to avoid combat when they did decide it wasn't worth it. i'd love to explore a richer vocabulary for fleeing battle.. and there's one other feature i wanted to add: if you enter a room on the same turn that an enemy squad was set to leave it, if you could see them walking out at the same time as you walk in, so you know which way they're headed, and you can follow them around to see where they go. by the time i thought of that, though, it was too late to add such a complicated feature. maybe in a future game... by the way, were you able to make much use of death sensitivity? there are a couple tools for anticipating and avoiding battles as it is, but i wanted to leave them a little obscure. my hope was that the game's difficulty would make people feel like they were missing something and pay a little more attention, prod at the mechanics a bit more and surprise themselves with the discovery. but i think they went mostly undetected. that's just fine, you can beat the game just fine without them, anyway. but the lack of a clearer pathway to discovery still stands out as something i'd like to be different

anyway, that's how it all looks to me now, three months out from release. thanks for bringing up those points of critique, they're important ones to consider, and fun to chew on - like i said, i love getting to engage deeply with this stuff, so i hope you don't mind my seizing on an opportunity to think through some of this stuff out loud. thanks again for your comment, i look forward to sharing more with you in the future >:3


I'm glad to share my thoughts!! Especially since I've been doing a lot of research towards eventually making my own RPG which eschews standard progression, it's very interesting for me to see what a game can do thematically with the idea and the new challenges it presents. But, also, I love hearing other developers' thoughts on their games, you just can't get that kind of perspective anywhere else.

I *did* figure out how Death Sensitivity worked! It took me until pretty late through my second attempt, but I did get it. I think it could *maybe* be a bit clearer but I enjoy the way that it, like many other details about each character, is stowed amongst the menus in such a way that it incites curiosity. I agree the pathway for discovery could be clearer, but that's really tricky to nail.

I do also feel your point about the thematic texture of battle not having any reward other than survival - I think it's a good idea, I think encouraging avoidance of fights makes sense and suits the game's tone. My thoughts regarding it more center around, "I would either like avoiding combat to feel a bit more purposeful, or combat itself to feel more meaningful from a metagame perspective," and, yeah, I think that the former feels like a better fit overall? Being able to see enemies who just left the screen would definitely have been neat in that way, I think - although, maybe environmental details, footprints and the like, could have also been a nice way to signal enemy pathways to unfamiliar players, too? Since skulls on the ground also serve a similar purpose, in a different context. 

I think "you can do everything right and still lose" is definitely an interesting conceit to explore, especially in a medium very focused on control, but one of the tricky parts about it is that it can potentially lead to players playing in overly defensive and ultimately less enjoyable ways out of attempting to prevent those sorts of cases The *other* tricky part is that, even in games with procedurally generated content, failure *basically* always takes the form of redoing content in some form, so it can feel like one's time is being robbed due to no fault of their own (again, borders non-issue for Cataphract due to *very* short length between saves, but does kind of feel like a strange hiccup to me?). I feel like procedural story generators (a la Dwarf Fortress) are *probably* the most likely to surmount this issue because randomly-generated disaster ends up still being interesting anyway, but I imagine there must be other examples too. I think your thought on exploring combat as both a tactically engaging but harsh and extrinsically unrewarding experience is interesting. I almost wonder if permanent negative impacts from combat could in some ways help to sell this - but then players would probably try to avoid those consequences by metagaming like frequent save/loading even more...

Hi, just got the game and have played my first run. Really liking it so far and wanting to try it again and win. However, I have a few questions to improve the experience:
-Can you save the game in any way?

-Can I fix the resolution so at least the gameplay shows in the center? Here is how it looks now in fullscreen for me (without the white part, sorry):

Anyway, this is a superb game, thanks a lot!

hey, thanks a bunch for playing! i'm really happy to hear you've enjoyed your time with it so far.

to answer your first question, you can save the game in any dead end room by picking the "rest" option.

regarding the second, i may not have any good news for you. rpg maker 2000's fullscreen is notoriously wonky on newer operating systems. if the fullscreen and resolution toggles (F4 and F5) don't give you any results you like, you might have better luck downloading the EasyRPG player, which has a much better fullscreen mode. the tradeoff is that there might be a few bugs or graphical errors since EasyRPG interprets the game code a little differently than the native player does - but it should still be fully playable. if this doesn't work for you, let me know and we can try to figure out something else.

Oh, thanks a lot! EasyRPG player looks great, it even comes with support for my controller!

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I beat the game! I gotta say, I loved it to bits. I am usually very compelled by RPG systems, but I often find the levelling getting on the way of my enjoyment of the titles.

This is my first time playing something that makes such good use of the strengths of the genre while keeping it interesting all througout. The fact that your party stats never change make some decisions like giving stat boosts or techniques to a unit really count.

Thanks a lot for the game! If I may inquire, do you happen to know of more titles of this kind? Maybe something that you or other members of the community have made? I would love to try them.

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oh! it's a delight to read that you had such a good time! thank you so much for coming back to share your thoughts, there's a fresh smile on my face as i write this reply. i'm happy that easyrpg player's looking good for you, too.

i can definitely think of a couple games you might like! if you especially like games without leveling systems, i'd start with facets by john thyer and fallen star by jetstorm4. my games ocean oi and atom oi are a bit shorter and purely focused on combat, but they fit the bill too. depending on your specific qualms with leveling, you might click with strife of cosmos by mythatelier and slimes by scitydreamer; both games implement leveling in a very controlled way and pair it with intentional, critical approaches to turn-based combat. finally, there are a couple other more general recommendations in the readme for cataphract oi you might find interesting - the ones i haven't mentioned yet might be longer or have more conventional approaches to character growth, but they're all wonderfully thoughtful responses to rpg traditions, so they might appeal to you on that level!

thanks for asking, 'cause most of these folks are my friends and community members (and often direct inspirations on my own work) and i love to plug their stuff xD


Thanks a lot for the recommendations, I will make sure to check them out! I am happy to know that you participate a community of creators, it looks super cool, good luck on everything you guys work in!


Me [with the smug expression of a poker player going all-in]: I have the initiative.  Call a Strike Formation!

1 turn later: The Red Star Cohort has failed.  The next CYCLE begins...


I really adored this! It's a super-tense but very fair time-limited dungeon crawl, I absolutely love how every action plays into the timer in different ways. I had a lot of fun mapping out the dungeon, and the climax was exhilarating. 


I love it!


Time... is running... out...


I really love this gameplay loop so much and it’s cool to see you still pushing the genre in bigger ways < 3